Is there anything more satisfying than a noodle dish? Think about it: pasta with rich meat sauce or hearty mushrooms, egg noodles topped with smothered chicken or tender brisket, spaetzle all by itself. The only problem is, most of those require a considerable amount of time, for sauces to simmer and for dried noodles to reconstitute.
That’s where the noodle dishes of Asia come in. They’re often remarkably fast: A quick improvised soup, a flexible weeknight salad. And now, Chicken Lo Mein. Like those other Asian dishes, this recipe isn’t necessarily authentic, but it is tasty. And fast. And easy. In my book, that’s more than good enough.
The sauce is from one of the most useful cookbooks I own, How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heartby Pam Anderson. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a collection of formulas and techniques that, together, let you take whatever you’ve got on hand and turn it into dinner. I don’t often cook from it—after all, the title tells you not to—but I thumb through it at least once a month in search of inspiration. If you’d rather not own a ton of cookbooks, I highly recommend you add this to your collection. It’ll take the place of at least a dozen more recipe-driven books.
Chicken Lo Mein
Adapted from How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart
Weight Watchers: Each serving is 11 PointsPlus
Note: The ingredients list is daunting, but this really does come together quickly. It’s even faster if you cheat and use pre-shredded carrots and broccoli, or any other pre-cut vegetables, in place of what I list below. Just be sure to add all the hard vegetables together at the beginning, and all the soft ones together at the end.
6 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small pieces (this is easiest to do while it’s still partially frozen)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce, divided
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, divided
1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon Sriracha or other Asian chili sauce
12 ounces fresh Chinese noodles (if you can’t find any, use fresh fettucine or linguine instead)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 medium carrot, sliced on an angle into thin rounds
1 rib celery, sliced on an angle into thin Cs
1 stalk broccoli, cut into florets, stems sliced thin (put florets & stems in separate bowls)
1 small zucchini, sliced into thin half-moons
2 scallions, whites and some greens, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (I keep mine in the freezer—it stays fresh indefinitely—and grate what I need on a Microplane)
- Put a large pot of unsalted water on to boil, covered to speed things up. While you’re waiting, do a little prep work: Combine the chicken breast with 1 tablespoon of reduced-sodium soy sauce and the sherry in a small bowl, and set aside. Put the remaining soy sauce in a liquid measuring cup, add 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and the broth, vinegar, sugar, and chili sauce, and set this aside, too.
- Cook the noodles for 3 to 4 minutes, until barely tender (Italian pasta may take 5 or 6), then drain and rinse with cold water immediately, until completely cool. Drain well, then pour the remaining teaspoon of sesame oil into your palm, rub your hands together, and massage the noodles until they’re lightly coated with oil. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When it shimmers add the hard vegetables—in the example above, that would be the carrots, celery, and broccoli stems. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a minute or two, until they’re just beginning to soften. Add the marinated chicken and cook another minute or two, until the chicken is not quite fully cooked. Add the soft vegetables (in this case, the broccoli florets, zucchini, and scallions) as well as the garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are crisp-tender and the chicken is cooked through. Remove all this to a clean bowl.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil to the skillet, then add the noodles. Cook, stirring frequently, until they’re heated through—you may want to lower the heat to prevent sticking. Return the chicken and vegetables to the pan, give the sauce a stir, and pour it in. Stir everything together and cook another minute, just until it all comes together.
MAKE BABY FOOD: Technically, there’s nothing here a baby can’t eat, but thanks to the soy sauce this is relatively high in sodium (even using the reduced-sodium kind). I’d reserve some of the noodles and some of the chicken-and-vegetable mixture before the sauce is added, and serve that to baby—either as finger food or pureed with a bit of broth.